Bertelsmann is Europe's biggest media company, and one of a handful globally that still holds significant interests in all areas of media including television, film, radio, music, book, magazine and newspaper publishing. Subsidiary businesses include magazine publisher Gruner & Jahr and the world's largest book publisher Penguin Random House. The latter was formed in 2013 through the merger of Bertelsmann's Random House with Pearson-owned Penguin. The German group bought out Pearson in 2020 to take full control of that business. Regional imprints include Doubleday, Viking, Jonathan Cape, Ebury, Goldmann, Plaza & Janes and Sudamericana. Its most successful book in 2018 was Michelle Obama's 'Becoming', the top-selling autobiography of all time with sales of over 13m copies, and still one of the global top three books in 2019. However, Bertelsmann's biggest business is RTL, controlling more than 70 TV and streaming channels and 30 radio stations in 12 countries, mainly in Europe. No competitor has anything like the same international footprint, The RTL brand operates in several countries and has a particularly strong presence in Germany, where it is the #1 commercial broadcaster. Other key subsidiaries include France's #2 commercial network M6 and production division Fremantle, which controls several of the world's biggest programme franchises, not least the Idols, Got Talent and X Factor talent show brands. The group's original recorded music group BMG was sold to Sony in 2008 but Bertelsmann retained a small but significant music publishing business under the same name, and has begun to move back into recorded music under the BMG name to exploit the explosion in digital distribution. Recording artists include Jason Aldean, Kylie Minogue, Keith Richards and Lil Dicky, and BMG publishes songwriters including Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Roger Waters and Lewis Capaldi. Bertelsmann's Arvato division is a powerhouse behind the scenes in services such as book and periodical printing, CD manufacturing and IT services. That division's CRM and direct mail operations were separated out in 2018 under the name Majorel. The group also has interests in magazine and newspaper printing and educational publishing. The group remains private, wholly owned and controlled by Germany's Mohn family. Revenues for 2019 were €18.0bn, the highest level for more than a decade, with net profit of €1.1bn. RTL is the biggest divison, accounting for record revenues of almost €6.7bn in 2019, and operating income of €1.4bn. Next was Arvato at €4.2bn, followed by Penguin Random House with €3.6bn. Almost a third of group revenues were generated in Germany and almost a quarter in the US. Thomas Rabe is group CEO.
Capsule checked 13th April 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 18th Dec 2019: As expected, Bertelsmann will officially take full control of Penguin Random House next year, probably in 2Q. It will acquire struggling Pearson's remaining 25% stake for $675m, subject to regulatory approval. Penguin Random House generated total revenues of €3.4bn in 2018 and an operating profit of €528m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Mar 2018: Bertelsmann reported its best performance for more than a decade, with revenues edging up by 1% to €17.2bn, and net profit by 0.5% to just under €1.2bn. TV and radio broadcaster RTL continues to dominate the group, with revenues rising to €6.4bn. That division alone accounted for more than half of group operating income. There was an increase in revenues for Arvato, the group's #2 division, to €3.8bn, while #3 Random House Penguin was down very slightly to €3.4bn. Both suffered a slight decline in profitability.
Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Jul 2017: Bertelsmann is to acquire an additional 22% of equity in the Random House Penguin joint venture with Pearson, lifting its total holding to 75%. The deal values the business at $3.55bn. The move was largely expected, giving Bertelsmann greater control of the world's biggest book publisher. Pearson has been gradually withdrawing from other businesses to focus on educational publishing. It will retain the remaining 25% for at least another 18 months, at which point Bertelsmann has an option to take full control.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Mar 2017: German media giant Bertelsmann reported its best profit since 2006, with net earnings up almost 3% to €1.14bn. That was despite a 1% decline in revenues to €16.95bn as a result of exchange rates. The key contributor was broadcast division RTL, which reported steady growth in revenues to a new high of €6.24bn and operating profit of €1.41bn. Marketing and logistics business Arvato also performed well, along with small but fast-growing music rights unit BMG. There were declines at Penguin Random House, despite the massive global success of Paula Hawkins' The Girl On The Train, and the Gruner & Jahr magazine division and printing group were also weak.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jan 2017: Bertelsmann looks set to take full control of book publishing giant Random House Penguin, after partner Pearson triggered an option to exit the business. That decision follows an "unprecedented" decline in Pearson's core North American educational publishing business, where sales dived by 30% in the final quarter. Formed in 2013 by the merger of Bertelsmann's Random House and Pearson-owned Penguin, the business is currently a joint venture, 53%-controlled by Bertelsmann. The German company said it is "open" to buying out Pearson's 47% stake "provided the financial terms are fair".
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